Fibreglass Windows and Doors for the Energy Efficient Construction Industry of the Future

Cascadia Windows and Doors
Written by Jen Hocken

Cascadia Windows and Doors manufactures fibreglass windows, doors, and cladding support systems for large-scale projects. Its products are beautifully designed without compromising the essential detail: performance.
The Universal Series line of fibreglass windows and doors has been in development for the last several years, and in the fall of 2017, the window product line was successfully launched, followed closely by the door products. In 2018, the Universal Series product line received certification from the International Passive House Association, and it became the first product designed in North America ever to become Passive House certified.

Cascadia offers a collection of product types within its Universal Series that are all independently Passive House certified. Its operable or fixed windows and swinging or sliding doors that make up the product line are all certified, and only one other company in the world can provide this collection of Passive House certified products. This competing company is located in Europe, but unlike Cascadia, it does not provide its products in fibreglass.

The Universal Series was used on many projects in its first year, the largest being a project with over two million dollars in glazing. The high rise building is located in Portland, Oregon.

The company’s product development efforts did not end with the success of the Universal Series. In the last year, Cascadia has used it as a platform to develop a second variant of the product line called a fibreglass window wall. This window system permits “a high rise building to have a full facade of windows not requiring cladding or anything else in between,” says Cascadia Windows and Doors Technical Director Michael Bousfield. The window wall is visually appealing since it conceals structural elements such as slab edges and allows buildings to have windows on the entirety or vast majority of the outside wall.

One of the downfalls of the traditional window wall is that it is usually framed in aluminum which affects its thermal performance. “The overall amount of heat loss that occurs through the product and at the transitions from one component of the product to the next – for example, at one story to the next story – have been details that lose a substantial amount of heat and have hampered the thermal performance of buildings, although they do grant access to very desirable views,” says Michael.

The introduction of the BC Energy Step Code for buildings in British Columbia is an example of taking clear and meaningful steps toward energy conservation. It is a voluntary provincial standard to encourage consistent and incremental change in the energy efficiency of buildings. From its base in Langley, BC, Cascadia has followed regulatory changes and trends throughout the West Coast, and is watching as these begin to move eastwards.

As new building codes require greater energy performance, windows with poor thermal performance have caused designers and developers to be forced to have less glass area on a facade. Fewer windows are installed to make modern buildings meet the new energy code requirements, but reducing window area is not desirable to the developers, owners, or people living or working in the buildings.

These industry changes and updates to building codes have strongly benefited Cascadia’s business growth since it was already building windows and doors to be highly efficient. The window wall product provided by Cascadia has the thermal performance and strength of fibreglass.

“The metal framed window walls are causing less glazing area to be able to be used because the products don’t perform well enough thermally. Fibreglass-framed window wall solves that problem, and fibreglass window wall is the latest variant of the Universal Series that we’re just bringing to the market,” says Michael.

Cascadia has grown significantly alongside the construction industry as it becomes more energy efficient. In the last year, the company has increased employee numbers, and its reach has expanded to include a larger region of North America. “As a company, we’ve been pleased to experience a rate of growth above twenty-five percent average compounded annually, every year, for the last ten years we’ve been in business. That trend continues, which we’re thankful for despite the growing pains that come with rapid expansion,” says Michael.

Cascadia moved to a new facility a little over six months ago, and it has already filled this. It rented additional space on the same property to store more materials and keep up with its continued growth, and it is now focusing on increasing the production capacity and efficiency within the confines of its factory. One step done to increase the efficiency of its production is the addition of a new computer-numerical controlled (CNC) machine, which is reported to be the longest in BC. Cascadia made a substantial investment in the new machine and raising the level of automation for the entire plant.

Over the last year, Cascadia has received several awards for its business practices and quality products. In the summer of 2018, it was pleased to hear that the Canadian Green Building Council named its Universal Series product the ‘Green Building Product of the Year.’ In its hometown during the fall of 2018, Cascadia was awarded the ‘Yearly Business Excellence Award’ for environmental leadership by the Langley Chamber of Commerce. The Universal Series was recognized yet again by the Vancouver Regional Construction Association with the ‘Product Innovation Award’ for 2018.

Cascadia has established great relationships with its main suppliers including the manufacturers of its fibreglass frames, its hardware, its glass, and the paint coatings that are used on its products. “Our supply chain is almost one hundred percent based in North America. In fact, I would say it is ninety-nine percent. We think it’s neat that our product is internationally certified, yet it is invented in North America; it is built in North America; and the component parts are supplied almost entirely within North America,” says Michael.

The reason why more companies are not using fibreglass for their products is that it is a challenging material to work with and manufacture. “The manufacturing tolerances with fibreglass are greater and less predictable than with other window framing materials. It’s an anisotropic product structurally, which means that it has different strength characteristics in different directions, and its method of joinery when constructing a window or door product requires more steps than other typical window framing materials,” explains Michael. Due to its structural characteristics, fibreglass requires a different approach to creating manufacturing practices that deliver consistent results.

The investment and time needed to manufacture with fibreglass properly has been underappreciated and underestimated by rival companies that have attempted to add fibreglass products to their existing lines. As a result, many of those companies have abandoned fibreglass when they were not able to reach their expectations. In contrast, Cascadia decided at the very beginning to search for a better product to bring to the industry and unanimously chose fibreglass because of its superior physical and thermal characteristics. It has always had a clear focus on specializing in fibreglass, and it does not manufacture any other type of products.

A company providing fibreglass as a side project will likely get frustrated without ample experience, material knowledge, and familiarity with the characteristics inherent in the material. Cascadia, on the other hand, has a reliable team that has the experience to meet every fibreglass challenge head-on.

Cascadia’s short-term goal is to launch the fibreglass window wall in the first half of this year and establish that product in the market to give designers and builders the opportunity to build far more energy-efficient, large-scale buildings. “The performance that system will provide will also reduce the demands of the mechanical systems used in those buildings. Even the initial construction costs of installing the mechanical systems will be less because the building exterior is more thermally efficient,” says Michael. Cascadia is excited to educate the industry on what opportunities this new technology has in store and is looking forward to seeing its products positively affect the construction industry.



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